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Isn’t ‘Win-Win’​ Winning?


Isn't 'Win-Win'​ Winning?

In this age where “winning” is touted as the one, only and absolute best way to get ahead, I can’t help but wonder what happened to “win-win” as a successful alternative.

Years ago, my first graduate school course was in Conflict Resolution. The professor, a practicing corporate attorney, presented this situation to the class: Imagine you work at a grocery store and two people come in to buy the one and only orange left in the produce department. How can this be best resolved?

Many concepts were brought forward, including:

  • Letting the customers duke it out; last man standing gets the orange.
  • Let the highest bidder buy the orange.
  • Cut it in half so each customer has an equal share.

Even the last suggestion, as fair as it seemed, was not a result either customer desired. The conflict remained.

The professor suggested, as a store employee, we take the role of mediator and start asking questions. Why did these customers want the orange? Soon the issues were revealed: One man had a wife at home with a cold and needed the juice from the orange. The other man’s wife was in the middle of baking muffins only to learn she did not have an important ingredient, the peel of one orange.

Upon learning all the facts, it was possible to compromise and completely satisfy both customers.

Today, our world faces much conflict. Unfortunately, there has been much focus on the idea that to be successful, one person (or one group) has to win and the other has to lose. And the losers should just cope with their results.

What happened to taking the time and giving attention to the prospect of working out “win-win” solutions? Yes, it is much more difficult to do. It requires patience and a lot of effort. That’s not a reason to abandon it. One can argue that the return on the investment of time and energy is well worth it if both sides can be satisfied. It might even lead to a more peaceful environment overall.

Only by working together can we can find solutions that have impact on a larger part of the population and not simply the select few who find themselves in the “win” column. There are better solutions that allow for a “win-win” column. Let’s hope we take the time to find them. 

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